The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Azerbaijani language

The Azerbaijanian language, also called Azeri, Azari, Azeri Turkish, or Azerbaijanian Turkish, is the official language of Republic of Azerbaijan. It's called azrbaycanca in Azerbaijani. Some dialects of the language are spoken in many parts of Iran (but most notably in the northwestern areas, known as the Iranian Azerbaijan), where it is the most popular minority language and there are more speakers than any other country in the world. The language is also spoken in Russia's Republic of Dagestan, south-eastern Georgia, northern Iraq, and eastern Turkey.

There are approximately between 22 and 50 million native Azerbaijanian speakers. It is a Turkic language of Oghuz branch, closely related to Turkish and also historically influenced by Persian and Arabic languages.



During the initial period of the Republic of Azerbaijan's independence, the official language of Azerbaijan was called "Türk dili" ("Turkish"), but since 1994 the older name of the language, "Azərbaycan dili" ("Azerbaijanian"), has been re-established. The most important literary magazine of the language published in Iran, Varliq, uses the English term "Turkish" and the Persian term "torki" for the language. Most Iranians casually call the language turki or torki, distinguishing it from the Turkey's official language, Turkish, by calling the latter a term which can be translated as Istanbul Turkish. Some people also consider "Azerbaijanian" a dialect of a greater "Turkish" language and call it "Azerbaijanian-Turkish". ISO and the Unicode Consortium, call the language "Azerbaijani".

Some sources like Gholamhossein Mosahab's The Persian Encyclopedia consider Azari/Azeri to be a different language, an older Iranian Tati language which was spoken in the region before the spread of Turkic languages, but now only spoken by different rural communities in Iran's Azerbaijan (such as villages in Harzanabad area, villages around Khalkhal and Ardebil, and also in Zanjan and Qazvin area). There are serious supporters and opposers of the theory (and even some who consider it offensive), which was originally published by Ahmad Kasravi in modern times, an ethnic Azerbaijanian and a native of Iran. Some of the people who disagree with Kasravi's theory prefer not to call themselves or their language Azeri or Azari because of the relation to the theory. Common usage of the terms in the English language is against this distinction.

Documentation in support of the theory however is ample:

History and Evolution

The medieval author Ibn al-Nadim, in his book Al-fihrist, however, mentions that all the Median and Persian lands of antiquity (including what is today known as Azerbaijan ) spoke one language. There, he quotes the great scholar Abdullah Ibn al-Muqaffa as such:

"The Iranian languages are Fahlavi (Pahlavi), Dari, Khuzi, Farsi (Persian), and Seryani. But Fahlavi comes from the word Fahleh. And Fahleh is a name that refers to 5 regions: Isfahan, Ray, Hamedan, Mah-Nahavand , and Azerbaijan."

He then reports that Dari is the official language of the royal courts, and is from Khorasan and Balkh and eastern Iran; Parsi is the language of the Zoroastrian Moobeds, and is from Fars; Khuzi is the unofficial language of the royalty and is from Khuzestan ; and Seryani originates from Mesopotamia.

This has also been reported by reputed medieval historians such as Al-Tabari, Ebne Hoghel , Istakhri , Moqaddasi , Yaghubi , Masudi, and Mostowfi Qazvini as well. Al-Khwarizmi also mentions this in chapter 6, vol 6, of his book Mafatih-ol-Olum.

Etymological studies also further indicate that current dialects spoken from Baku to Khalkhal to Semnan, all originated from a common source. In other words, the people of ancient Azerbaijan spoke the same language spoken by the Medes. (see UCLA's distinguished professor Ehsan Yarshater 's report in: Majjaleh-ye Daaneshkadehye Adabiyaat, 5, No 1-2, p35-37)

The medieval historian Yaqut al-Hamawi also used the phrase Al-ajam-ol-Azariyah ("The Azeri Iranian") in his books Mo'ajjem ol-Odabaa and Mo'jem ol Baladaan. In other sources such as Surat-ol-Arz by Ebne Hoghel , Ahsan ol-Taqaaseem by Moqaddasi , and Masaalik va Mamaalik by Istakhri , the people of Azerbaijan are recorded to be speaking Iranian languages. Obviously, this was before the Turkic cultural arrival. And Tabari in 235 A.H. also mentions that poets in Maragheh recited poetry in Pahlavi. Some Azerbaijani poets however, such as Qatran Tabrizi (d465 A.H.), used the word "Persian" and "Pahlavi" interchangeably to describe their native language.

The historian Hamdollah Mostowfi even goes as far as describing variants of "pahlavi" spoken in different areas of Azerbaijan. In his book Tarikh Gozideh, he describes 8 poets from Azerbaijan, calling them "Ahl-ol She'r Men-al-Ajam" (Iranian poets), all Persian by tongue. By now of course, Dari and Pahlavi had merged into one, as successive dynasties moved from east to west, bringing with them the Dari version of the Iranian language.

Suffice to say that the number of records and documents from Azerbaijan in Pahlavi language are so numerous that it has left little doubt that this was indeed the native tongue of Azerbaijan before the arrival of the Turks. Many words in the current Azeri vocabulary in fact are of Pahlavi origin. (see studies in Nashriyeh Adabiyaat of Tabriz University, by Dr Mahyar Navabi, 5,6. Also see Farhang e Kamaleddin Teflisi, Ajayeb ol-Makhluqaat by Najibeddin Hamadani, and also the books: Majmal-ol-Tavarikh, Al-qasas, Iskandar-Nameh e Qadeem, and others for lists of words)

It is agreed that the current Turkic form of the Azeri language supplanted and replaced Pahlavi in Azerbaijan before the Safavid dynasty, perhaps starting with the arrival of Seljukian Turks, and during a gradual course. But some historians report of pahlavi being spoken in Tabriz as late as the 17th century. (see Rowdhat ul-Jinan by Hafez Hosein Tabrizi (d997 A.H.), and Risaleh ye Anarjani written in 985 AH). Even the Ottoman Turkish explorer Evliya Celebi (1611-1682), mentions this in his Seyahatname. He also reports that the elite and learned people of Nakhichevan and Maragheh spoke Pahlavi, during his tours of the region.


Main article: Azerbaijani literature

Classical literature in Azerbaijanian was formed in 11th century based on Tabrizi and Shervani dialects (these dialects were used by classical Azerbaijani writers Nasimi, Fizuli, and Khatai). Modern literature in the Republic of Azerbaijan is based on the Shervani dialect only, while in Iran it is based on the Tabrizi one. The first newspaper in Azerbaijani, Əkinçi was published in 1875. During the Soviet Union period, Azerbaijani was often used as a lingua-franca between the Turkic people of the Union.

In mid-19th century it was taught in schools of Baku, Ganja, Sheki, Tbilisi, and Yerevan. Since 1845, it has also been taught in the University of St. Petersburg in Russia.

Famous literacy works in Azerbaijani are The book of Dede Qorqud (which UNESCO celebrated its 1300th anniversary in 1998, written in an early Oghuz Turkic dialect), Koroğlu , Leyli and Mejnun , and Heydar Babaya Salam. Important poets and writers of the Azerbaijani language include Imadedin Nesimi , Muhammad Suleymanoglu Fuzuli (the first writer to write extensively in Azerbaijani, but also in Persian), Hesenoglu Izedin , Ismail I (the Persian king), Bakhtiar Vahabzada , Khurshudbanu Natavan (female poet), Mirza Fatali Akhundov , Mirza Sabir (satirist), and Mohammad Hossein Shahriar (who has more poems in Persian than in Azerbaijani).


Based on information at [1], Azerbaijani phonology appears to be:


bilabial dental alveolar velar uvular glottal
stops voiceless p t   k q  
voiced b d   g    
affricates voiceless          
fricatives voiceless f s ʃ x   h
voiced v z ʒ ɣ    
nasals m n        
lateral   l        
rhotic   r        


front central back
unrounded rounded unrounded rounded unrounded rounded
high i y   ɯ u
mid e œ     o
low æ   a  


Officially, Azerbaijani now uses Latin alphabet, but the "Soviet" Cyrillic alphabet is still in wide use: see Azerbaijani alphabet. There is a one-to-one correspondence between the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets for Azerbaijani (although the Cyrillic alphabet has a different order):

(Aa Аа), (Əə Әә), (Bb Бб), (Cc Ҹҹ), (Çç Чч), (Dd Дд), (Ee Ее), (Ff Фф), (Gg Ҝҝ), (Ğğ Ғғ), (Hh Һһ), (Xx Хх), (Iı Ыы), (İi Ии), (Jj Жж), (Kk Кк), (Qq Гг), (Ll Лл), (Mm Мм), (Nn Нн), (Oo Оо), (Öö Өө), (Pp Пп), (Rr Рр), (Ss Сс), (Şş Шш), (Tt Тт), (Uu Уу), (Üü Үү), (Vv Вв), (Yy Јј), (Zz Зз).

Before 1929, Azerbaijani was only written in the Arabic alphabet. In 19291938 a Latin alphabet was in use (although it was different from the one used now), from 1938 to 1991 the Cyrillic alphabet was used, and in 1991 the current Latin alphabet was introduced, although the transition to it has been rather slow. The Azerbaijani speakers in Iran have always continued to use the Arabic alphabet, although the spelling and orthography is not yet standardized.

The Azerbaijani language, if written in Latin, transliterates all foreign words to its own spelling. For example, "Bush" becomes "Buş", and "Schröder" becomes "Şröder".

See also

External links

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